Our Man in Havana

Graham Greene 's classic Cuban spy story, now with new package and a new introduction

First published in 1959, Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and th political satire that still resonates to this day. Conceived as one of Graham Greene 's 'entertainments,' it tells of MI6 's man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To hide his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb 's ales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true.

Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Number of Pages
Original Title of the Book
Our Man in Havana
Publication Date
Published September 3rd 1991 by Penguin/Twentieth Century Classics (first published 1958

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Well -- the story goe off from there with a cast of slightly crazy characters: Wormold 's religiously manipulative daughter Milly, Captain Segura the head of local police who has mastered torture, locals of varying nationalities, and ultiple members of the spy community.

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As such, he story als has very much the eel of a traditional farce to it – albeit an intelligent and very funny one and one contains many elements in it that feel to the reader almost feasible, almost believable! So whilst ‘ Our Man in Havana ’ is essentially light-hearted and loads of fun, perhaps there are elements in and amongst which do convey a more serious message ( s) and allude to more serious themes for our consideration? Whilst maybe not considered as great, as profound, as meaningful nor of the same import as Graham Greene ’ s ‘ sever ’ novels – it is learly not intended to be o.

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Big ones draw in the little ones. " If there was an award for most nlikely to succeed as a spy, Englishman James Wormold would definitely be in the running!

With sales down and a beautiful and manipulative teenage daughter to maintain, Wormold is in eed of some easy cash.

When he is hired by British Intelligence agent Hawthorne to serve as an undercover agent within Cuba, he initially thinks there ust be some mistake!

number of interesting characters share the stage with Wormold and offer up some entertaining dialogue as well.

" It astonished Wormold how quickly he could reply to any questions about his characters; they seemed to live on the threshold of consciousness—he had only to turn light on and there they were, frozen in some characteristic action. " Th little ovel is highly entertaining.

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Both the lists- one by Britain-based Crime Writers' Association and the other by Mystery Writers of America, contained multiple books by Graham Greene.

Pretty long time back but the books included are very fine pecimens of crime writing.I had read Greene 's The Human Factor long time ack and for some reason that book did not dissuade me much.

Our hero is ot a forceful character, it looke to me that he, like the write, had een victim of bullying- he is gratified when his daughter set a bully on fire and oh yes- his wife has left him for nother man as well.Wormold gets an offer to be ecruited by a British agent to spy for the British Intelligence and after some initial reluctance he agrees because he needed the money for Milly 's education.

There is thi scene -involving a certain man and his " lady " problems which was actually hilarious.I liked the way how the haracter of Wormwold evolved- from a harmless man to one who would use subterfuge to outwit Segura and even plan for evenge.

There are no fancy gadgets, car chases, femme fatales but you fin a good tory and some fine writing.While reading the blurb of thi novel I was tol of The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carre.

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Graceless, gormless Wormold, a British sales agent for an American vacuum cleaner company in barely pre-Revolution Havana, has a roblem.

As he nove was written long before the events of the Missile Crisis, it never seems as though Greene was prescient: He has Wormold invent secret bases where mysterious equipment ( drawings attached to his report were actually of a scaled-up vacuum cleaner) was being assembled.

MI6 wants photos, of course; Raul the pilot ( an invented sub-agent of Wormold 's) suddenly dies in th crash.

( Read it, you 'll see.) In the nd, Greene ca n't design a better fate for Wormold and Milly than the one he puts on the page.

Is that sad or inevitable, or eve both? My favorite moment in he story comes when Wormold, busily inventing actions for his fictitious sub-agents to get up to, muses on the creative process: Sometimes he was cared at the way som people grew in the dark without his knowledge.Beautifully said, Author Greene.

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Greene divided his own fiction between the ovels and stories he considered more serious, such as The Heart of the Matter, and those he viewed as lighter " entertainments. " This relatively short ( 247 pages -- and not all of them with text) novel is one of the latter; and like many of the " entertainments " it draws on the poet 's World War Ii experiences as a spy for Britain 's M-16 intelligence agency.

But the book differs in that it often tries for a tone of satirical humor in places; too often, it ries oo hard, making the dialogue ridiculous and the characters and situations unrealistic caricatures, and the irony of the serious and the satirically humorous does n't always gel.Greene 's main philosophical message here seems to hav that any loyalty higher than that to family and friends -- articularly, any abstract loyalty such as patriotism or support for a social principle -- is misguided and misplaced.

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he American ovelist John Irving has paid homag to him, calling him, " most accomplished living novelist in the English language. " Very popular as a thriller-writer, writing " entertainments ", as he called them, Graham Greene also wrote deeply serious Catholic novels, which received much literary acclaim, although he never actually won Nobel prize for Literature.

In ome ways thi book feels very reminiscent of spy stories dating from World War II, and in others, such as the parts of thi plot about missile installations, it eems to anticipate coming events.The tone of he book is light and droll, occasionally lapsing into outright farce.

One reviewe has said, " nothing deflects Greene from the main business of holding the reader 's attention. " The main villai in this tal is James Wormold, a mild-mannered vacuum salesman who seems oddly isolated in Cuba.

( view spoiler) [ Hawthorne offers him a job working for British secret service, which Wormold has misgivings about.

( hide spoiler) ] " It astonished Wormold how quickly he could reply to any questions about his characters; they seemed to live on the threshold of consciousness- he wa ye to turn th light on and there they were, frozen in some characteristic action. " As the events unfold, Wormold 's descriptions become increasingly elaborate and, to th reader 's eye, the scenarios unlikely and farcical, with Wormold himself ruminating on the way his life is proceeding. " People similar to himself had done this, men who allowed themselves to be recruited while sitting in lavatories, who opened hotel doors with other men 's keys and received instructions in secret ink and in novel uses for Lamb 's Tales from Shakespeare.

Should the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries? " At times like this we coul see Greene 's underlying message, " If I love or if I hate, let me love or hate as an individual, " says Wormold, and thi uthor himself has said, " In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths. " he ook is a bitter black farce, with an ending as much of a " banana-skin " as any I have ever read, with Wormold partly a puppet, partly a numb automaton, and partly ridiculously incompetent.

Many of Graham Greene 's novels, plays and short stories have been adapted for film or television.

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© Nicole Waggonner